Games I Never Played... Until Now - Kingdom Hearts (Entry 1)

(Note: I hope to make several entries of my playthrough of this game in the near future)

I always wanted to play through Kingdom Hearts. No, not the copy that I play at my friend's house where he leveled up fully and I hack 'n' slash in Olympus Coliseum, but one copy that I could call my own, that I could play through on my own times. I got my wish. Through the fantastic internet, I could buy a refurbished 60 GB PS3 (a model that IS backwards compatible with PS2 games) as well as brand-new copies of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.

It's not that I'm not familiar with how Kingdom Hearts, and its story, works. I have played Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, and Dream Drop Distance, and with some Wikis to help me along, I'm relatively well versed in KH lore, despite not playing the two main games nor Birth by Sleep, which are definitely the most important games of the series, story-wise. So, I knew what I was gonna see, but I wanted to experience this game for myself.

Does this count? ... Nah.

So far, I feel like I've gotten slapped in the face. Not that I dislike it, I suppose.

After being forced to watch an opening movie where the odd Dive to the Heart scene is made all the more bizarre by the completely inappropriate-to-Kingdom Hearts "Simple and Clean" is playing, I realized I could not skip cutscenes. I never want to skip cutscenes on the first run-through, but with the latter two games, I took that freedom for granted. Admittedly, this is Square-Enix before it became that... progressive, let's say, so I'm not surprised.

Neither am I surprised by the tutorial segment. I know how to play Kingdom Hearts, and I re-learned it. It's just as well, since 358 and 3D are different in the sense that the X button (where the B is on the (3)DS) and the O button (where the A is on the (3)DS) are inverted, making jumps and attacks performed with different buttons. It's very hard for me to break a force of habit, but I make do. More jarring for me is the right analog stick, which I usually have used for camera use. My hundreds of hours with such games, especially Xenoblade Chronicles, where such controls helped stay aware of what was going on in battle. Finding that I move my cursor up the command menu is a bit jarring, to say the least, although that's a minor quip.

In my two hours that I spent today with the game, I was mostly immersed in fetch quests to build a raft or watching cutscenes. Once again, guess I'm spoiled in getting the ability to jump straight into the action. But I made do.

I probably should have given this more thought.

The most jarring realization that I made was that Kingdom Hearts is no walk in the park. I wouldn't go comparing this to Critical mode, but this is tough, albeit in a different way. For example, you lack the simple ability of Guarding at the outset of the game, which I found incredibly bizarre, having that skill at the outset of the latter two I've played. I seriously took that for granted. (Admittedly, I made it harder than myself by choosing the Dream Sword and sacrificing the Shield, boosting attack, lowering defense, and postponing my learning of Guard until I'm level 36. I'm level 4. And I'm not going to watch those cutscenes or do those fetch quests this soon a second time). I hope I get Dodge Roll soon.

Despite my complaints, I do have high hopes for Kingdom Hearts. I want to play this game, and I made it tough on myself. Cool. I like tough. I kinda stalled with exploration and looking for those damned mushrooms, but I really just wanted to explore Disney Worlds. And there're Final Fantasy elements. That's really cool enough for me, no matter how many times I have to repeat cutscenes because I lost to a boss because I didn't choose the Shield or the Staff and didn't get Guard. Knowing me, that's bound to happen in the near future.


Historically Inaccurate

As I sit down and finish (read: start) my summer homework for AP European History, which mainly consists of outlining, I come across the Wars of the Roses. For those of you who do not know, following the great Hundred Years War in Europe between England and France, the House of York and the House of Lancaster, two rival branches of the English royal family, fought each other for royal supremacy. This duel was called the Wars of the Roses because, allegedly, the symbol of the House of York was a White Rose, and the symbol of the Lancasters was a Red Rose.

To summarize, Edward IV, son of the Duke of York, seized power of the Lancastirian monarchy and instituted a rule for over 20 years. His son was overthrown by Ed's brother, Richard III, and after Richard III died, the Tudor dynasty, of Lancastirian heritage, painted Richard as the bad guy, allowing Henry Tudor (Henry VII, not the guy in the show, Henry VIII) to eventually claim the throne. Oh yeah, there were several battles in-between (my book really doesn't go into that, strangely enough.)

Sadly, this reminded me of something else entirely.

Hell yes.

I never actually owned this game. My friend did. However, he set a file up for me, and whenever I went to his house, we played this game.

The game is incredibly interesting, because you can side with the Yorkists (led by Seto Kaiba as Christian "Seto" Rosenkruez, who, by the way, has nothing to do with the Yorks) or Yugi Muto as Henry "Yugi" Tudor. Yes, you read that right. He's tired of being called Henry Tudor, so Yugi is an acceptable alternative.

The resemblance is uncanny.

At the outset of the game (keep in mind, this is a recreation of 9 year old memories plus Wikipedia), you get to choose to side with the Yorkists or with the Tudors. The goal of the game is incredibly simple; you duel several Duelists of the opposite Rose. If you side with Yugi, take down Seto's goons, or vice-versa. Typically, these are characters re-imagined from the show into several historical persons, or are just... themselves (Bakura is named... Bakura!). Some of these people are not actually from the Wars of the Roses, like Seto's character, but they are fairly old European people, so I guess that makes it OK?

This guy (Seto's character) formed a society called the Order of the Rose Cross. Same difference.

The combat was what was different. It wasn't hard, but kinda weird. It's more like a strategy RPG in the sense that you move around a set field comprised of units and you attack monsters or give them boosts. Each character has a deck leader, not too unlike the one used in the 3rd season of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. Your deck leader actually represents your life points, and attacking it continuously will cost you the duel. Or win you it.

Terrain is also an element of the gameplay, also functioning similar to field spells, giving set bonuses to set types of monsters. It also results in the wonky labyrinth or the broken Crush setting.

This was such a weird game. But a fun one. Taking historical figures and adapting them, even loosely, is a pretty interesting concept, and I love it when games do such a thing. I may never play this game again (the friend and I aren't on good terms anymore). But even still, this game was fun because it was different, and as I continue outlining for Euro, I smile.

Then my right hand hurts because I have 20 more pages to outline.


Finally got "tired" of it

Xenoblade Chronicles has to have been the biggest surprising delight that I have had in a while. I was never incredibly interested in the game, only finding about it through my interest in The Last Story and, subsequently, Operation Rainfall's campaign. It was an RPG, and I have a Wii, and I heard great things about it, so I ordered it and began playing.

Well, that was it. I was really obsessed with the game.

80 hours with the main story and some sidequests really satisfied me, and then I spent an additional 25 hours doing more sidequests and taking down superbosses. I kinda stagnated after getting the seventh character's 5th skill tree, and even though it's pretty badass in several aspects, SP grinding really didn't hold sway over me like it used to. After reaching level 99 and trying to find NIght Vision Crystals to take down the superbosses, I kinda just gave up, because the boss battles post-game (IMO) pale in comparison to most of the previous ones. (Side-note, this game was pretty unbalanced in the AP and SP front, sometimes showering you with EXP, but holding you back to get those other points. SP is particularly annoying, since at least with AP you can compensate with gems and skill links).

But I was really satisfied and happy with my time with Xenoblade. I spend lots more time on RPGs than I do with most other games (I actually enjoy level-grinding as long as I'm not plagued by random battles, and this leads me to play Pokemon, Dragon Quest IX, and Tales games endlessly), but this is the first time I've spent this long on one run, even if I ignore the post-game material. It was a good run, and frankly, one of the best games I have ever played.


Behind the Scenes: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Review

Read the review here. I'm going to write reviews semi-frequently, so I feel like making a couple things clear would allow for more transparency. This is copying Ryan Clements of IGN, because this is something I was impressed with.

-I've played every previous Kingdom Hearts game in the series, but not fully through on some of them. I played Chain of Memories, Re:Coded, and 358/2 Days fully, but not KH, KH II, or KH Birth By Sleep fully (about 5-10 hours per) due to my lack of anything Playstation.

-I completed this game on Standard Difficulty, in about 24 hours. I'm still playing. My total game time is 27 hours so far.

-I "Dropped" 27 times at this point.

-Mostly in standard lighting, played at 1 brightness. In below-average lighting, 1 brightness was ideal. In the presence of any sunlight, at least 2 brightness was needed, due to the common darker dungeons.

-3D was played in all cutscenes, and sometimes in boss fights.

-I used the Circle Pad Pro once.

-This game lost points due to:

  • Poor storytelling
  • Lame camera
  • Lack of the overall KH magic (subjective, I know)

-This is still a good game that you should buy.



So, you see, I am on the Mock Trial team. My school's Mock Trial team is fairly good, and we are one of the best in the area. Actually, we are tied for best (though we like to call ourselves better) with the local Prep school's Mock Trial team. For the past two years, they have advanced to States over us because of a point difference of one
But the thing is, it's usually saved for the semifinals/finals.
By some freak event, however, we are facing them in the second round, which will dictate whether we move onto district finals or not. And what's worse is the fact that this is my very first trial. 
Wait, we're on GiantBomb. 
Let's put it into perspective. Let's say I decided to face the Sinnoh Elite Four when all my Pokémon were at level 30. My teammates say such an analogy is a stretch (though I had to compare an ant to a cyclops), but that's the way I see it.
I joined the Mock Trial team in my Freshman year (last year), due solely to the fact that I liked Ace Attorney. Sure, I was fully aware that the "law" in Ace Attorney is nothing like hard-core American law you see on Law & Order, but I thought it would be fun nevertheless. As I was in a team of all veterans, I was shunted to the "alternate" role, and I complained that I didn't get to do anything, until I realized no one liked me because of that. In the end, I had great fun seeing stuff at work, and was just as pissed as the rest of the team when we lost to the Prep school by one point.
As half the team last year was made up of seniors, I tried out again this year and got on the team. Now, the natural progression in my mind is Alternate to Witness to Lawyer. Nope! I probably shouldn't have mentioned how I was starting to place very high in my Debate tournaments, because they (the club advisers) saddled me as a Plaintiff attorney. Not only that, but I Direct-Examine the Plaintiff himself, and Cross-Examine the most important witness on the Defendant's side. I also deliver the opening. Going against this school on my first trial is very intimidating... Mainly for the Objections.
Phoenix Wright makes cross-examining look easy. Sure, I don't have a freaky-yet-awesome guy with a visor throwing coffee at me, nor do I have an uptight German whipping me, but I have to go against good witnesses. But Nick also makes Objections look easy. I find making them hard, for two reasons. 1, I can't always identify them properly. And 2, I can't understand whether I should or shouldn't go. If it hurts my witness, I should, but I'm not a great judge of that. Responding is nerve-wracking too, because I can't think uber-fast.
Still, practice makes perfect. And after all, I made a promise to a friend of mine. If I win, I'd have to yell C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!
If I lose? Well, he didn't offer anything, because he was confident in me. Now I just need to find that confidence.


How long can you play? (rhetorical)

After I finished the main storyline of Dragon Quest IX, and some side stuff, I unexpectedly got tired of it, and grabbed a Yu-Gi-Oh! game to satisfy my new craving. After playing through the story about 3 times, I got bored of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and when I went to a friend's house, he asked me to show him the "Slime Hill," a place filled with nothing but slimes, allowing you to find members of the Metal Slime family (who have high evasion and defense, immunity to magic, have the potential to run away fast, but give monstrous amounts of experience). So, I obliged him, let him into my world, and we went slime-hunting.
Then, when he left, I got a bunch of quests. Wi-FI Quests. The quests I normally can't get because my Wi-Fi is WPA instead of WEP. It surprised me that if I connected with someone who connected to Wi-Fi, I get their share of the quests and material to go bonkers.
Not to mention a treasure map.
So, my love of Dragon Quest IX rekindled, allowing me to double my original playtime of 60 hours, making me go through grottoes, level up more, take on these side quests (both in-game and Wi-Fi) and overall, have so much fun that I wondered why I stopped in the first place.
Has anyone else gotten tired of DQ IX and then jumped back in? From my point of view, it's hard not to.


Ironic Ninjas

For those of you who do not know, there has often been a huge internetz fight between pirates and ninjas, to the extent where a game was made. Which is better? On a normal basis, it would be up to two anime franchises to make the choice (for me, anyhow). 

Believe it, b*****s!
One one side, there's Naruto. The popular ninja franchise that I'm not too fond of. Trailing off a bit, that's mainly because the English dub has plenty of horrid voices, and I find an annoying fanbase. Now, I still find a bunch of reasonable people who like Naruto. But the fact that so many anime crazies like Naruto bugs me. 
And usually, I'm not for 10 episode, 50 chapter long fights.  
But I digress. The overarching point is, I DON'T LIKE NARUTO. Believe THAT. 
On the other hand, I like One Piece
Okay, the 4kids dub was a mistake (for the most part, the voice actors did a nice job), and it does have long fights as well. But think of it - not every humor is perverted, and
its fanbase isn't as annoying. 
I am REALLY going away from the point here. But my bash here seems to me that I favor pirates over ninjas. Nope! Ninjas, my friend, win. Not because of Naruto, however. 
 To me, the choice purely lies in a popular webcomic known as The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, a comic that details the adventures of an Irish doctor... who's a ninja. Thrilling stuff, my friends, thrilling stuff. 
So, there ya have it. A spew of random nonsense that reflects the inner workings of my mind. Pirates are cool, but because of Dr. McNinja, you can have Japan win at all times. 
...And because of Edge from FFIV, too. Gotta love Edge.

Step, Walk, Watts

It's already been three months since Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver have came out. In my area, the hype has died down. In fact, after getting a handful of other games, I haven't really played Pokemon in a while. However, I still continue to use the Pokewalker attachment that comes with it. 
It's funny; I never played too much with those Tamogatchi (sp?) and aside from my iPod, I never carry anything in my pocket. Since I fired this thing up, I get up in the morning, put the Pokewalker in my pocket, and go to school. I take the chance to walk around as much as possible. 
Is it worth the effort? 
Probably not. 
But as a Pokemaniac, I never hesitated to use the thing. Since it has the lifespan of a watch, I don't have to worry about it dying any time soon. Miraculously, I legally got all the event Pokewalker courses that have been handed out in the US so far, and, through the Winner's Path, I have over 10 Choice Bands. which is very... refreshing, to say the least. Currently, I have amassed 40,000 watts and have unlocked the "Big Forest" route. 

To whoever may be reading this, what do you say about the Pokewalker? Anyone still interested?